News Briefs for the Week of Oct. 1, 2021

Scout 10 Commandment Hike held

The Knights of Columbus of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Council 15821, led by Grand Knight Anthony Hopfinger, presented a dialogue with the Cub Scouts about the Ten Commandments held on Sept. 25, 2021, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The Cub Scouts hiked around the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament to 10 different points to discuss the Commandment with the Knights. Patches were blessed and distributed by Father Lawton Lang, Diocesan Scout Chaplain. A light lunch was provided by the staff at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. All were pleased with the weather, the program, and the presentations.

Religious Sister dies

Sister Maria del Carmen Peña, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, died unexpectedly Sept. 25, 2021 in Haledon, New Jersey at the age of 87 and a Salesian Sister for 65 years. Sister Carmen retired at the age of 86 after six years of service in the finance office of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples. The high school posted a message of her passing on social media and stated: “She loved our school and we loved her even more.  She was small in stature, but captured a big piece of your heart once you met her. Her legacy will live on through all those who were blessed to know her.  May you rest in peace Sr. Carmen.  No doubt some of the first words she heard was, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’” Born in 1934 in Saltillo, Mexico, Sister Carmen served in various roles of leadership for more than 40 years, including Provincial Treasurer and Provincial Vicar and much more. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Sept. 27, 2021, at the St. Joseph Provincial Center in Haledon, New Jersey.

Latest Catholic Charities vaccination clinic a success

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. continues to reach out to underserved portions of the community by hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics throughout the Diocese. The latest clinic was hosted Sept. 25, 2021 at the Casa San Juan Bosco Farmworker Housing community in Arcadia. Representatives of the DeSoto County Department of Health and Florida Department of Health administered the vaccines with volunteers assisting and handing out gift bags of food and other essentials to all who came. Catholic Charities has hosted more than a dozen vaccination clinics throughout the region.

Interest in science blossoms in Chemistry Club

The after-school St. Catherine Catholic School Chemistry Club explored chemical changes in matter during various scientific experiments at their Sept. 27, 2021 meeting. Everyone in the club loves science.

Students donate care packages

Members of the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School St. Vincent de Paul Society in Sarasota donated more than 100 care packages to the families and clients of Bethesda House of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Venice, Inc. on Sept. 24, 2021.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated in school

Students at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by doing research on the different Spanish-speaking countries in the world. Students then created a presentation to share what they learned with the rest of the class on Sept. 21, 2021.

Students learn about Moses

The first grade students of Christine Macaluso at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers learned about the story of Moses in class the week of Sept. 20, 2021. They ended their week by creating colorful drawings of baby Moses in a basket.

Schools hold Boosterthon

St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota held a Boosterthon the week of Sept. 20-24, 2021. One of the highlights was a fun run and other games, topped off by ice cream at the end of the week. Money raised during the week will go toward various programs in the two schools.

Students celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day outside

Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4 classes at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples celebrated Johnny Appleseed Day with an outdoor class on Sept. 27, 2021. Students sat on blankets while they learned about a man who not only introduced apples to North America but promoted conservation.

Our Lady celebrated in Naples

The Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity) holds a special place in the heart of Amrita Martinez for Our Lady provides a connection to her heritage as an American-born Cuban.

“This devotion goes back in my family many generations and the stories of the celebrations on this day always bring me great joy,” Martinez explained following a Mass dedicated to Our Lady on Sept. 8, 2021 at St. Agnes Parish.

The commemoration of the Patroness of Cuba included guest celebrant Father Alberto Reyes and was preceded by the praying of the rosary. More than 400 attended the Mass which was also celebrated as the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with all of the music focused on honoring Our Lady. The Prayer of the Faithful included one for the citizens of Cuba, “that through the intercession of Our Lady of Charity, an end may be brought to the division, suffering and internal conflict within the country, and that all will work to build peace and harmony.”

The opening procession included a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and the carrying forward of a small statue of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre by men dressed in white and wearing the hats of Cuban peasants. The image of Our Lady of Charity depicts Mary standing on the moon and surrounded by angels, while holding the Child Jesus, who holds a globe in one hand and raises the other hand in a gesture of blessing. The statue was placed on a stand in front of the altar during Mass. After Mass the statue was on display in the narthex where many people knelt and prayed before the image in respect.

The Mass came at a time when there has been enormous political, social and economic unrest in Cuba causing many to fear for loved ones who continue to live under the brutal communist regime.

Father Reyes spoke about the struggle for the people of Cuba during these turbulent times of pandemic and social turmoil. He shared stories of the suffering and oppression of many as they strive to eke out a meager existence.

While many in Cuba feel despair, Father Reyes said they are comforted by Our Lady of Charity who serves as a beacon of light during the ongoing storm. He told everyone that they must continue to support the people of Cuba in any way they can, but primarily through prayer.

While he noted not everyone present for the Mass was born in Cuba, they must still consider themselves to be Cuban forever. “It is in your heart! It is who you are! Live in unity with the people of Cuba!”

Father Michael Orsi, Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes, who has spoken publicly about the oppressive regime in Cuba, expressed his solidarity with the Cuban people, offering prayers that in our lifetime the country will break away from the heavy chains of communism, and the people will truly find freedom.

Martinez, who has several relatives living in Cuba but many more living in the United States said she often prays for “protection and comfort,” during times of trouble. “It’s what my family used to pray for before they left Cuba many years ago, and what we still all pray for. Our Lady is always there for us.”

Devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Charity dates to 1612 when two indigenous laborers and a slave boy were on a boat in a fierce storm when they sought the protection of Mary. The storm suddenly calmed and then in the distance they spotted a white bundle floating on a piece of wood. It was a small statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus on her left arm and a gold cross in her raised right hand. Inscribed on the wooden board were the words, “Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad” (“I am Our Lady of Charity”). Despite being found in the water after a storm, the white material in which the statue was wrapped remained completely dry.

Our Lady of Charity was declared patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012, as the Church in the country celebrated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity. The Holy Father entrusted the future of Cuba to the Blessed Virgin.

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

Parish helps dreams come true for youth

Over the years the parishioners of St. Leo the Great Parish have forged a strong bond with Catholic Charities programs in Bonita Springs.

“We proudly host their presence on our campus in the Juan Diego Center and constantly witness and support the good works provided by their staff and volunteers, many of whom are our own parishioners,” said Anne Bellows, Assistant to the Pastor.  “We partner in providing donations from our St. Leo Food Bank, as well as annual holiday food and gift drives at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We receive the most delight in this relationship when it impacts our area children.”

The Positive Youth Development Program is one such Catholic Charities resource which helps area children and operates after-school tutoring and summer camps, explained Jose A. Perez, Positive Youth Development Program Manager.

Each of the 40 children who participated in the Program’s Summer Enrichment Camp received scholarships from parishioners of St. Leo the Great Parish. During the summer the children received tutoring in math and reading, as well as enjoying enriching activities during their seven weeks on campus including a number of day trips.

“This year we wanted to do something special for the youth we have the privilege of working with,” Perez said. “The last two years have been hard on everyone, but especially on youth who will look back and remember the Pandemic as a significant life event, and it has not been a very positive one.”

Perez figured that perhaps the Program could do something that will leave a positive memory for these challenging times in all this sadness.

“After much thought, I decided to reach out to the most magical place on earth (Disney World) since the kids have always asked about visiting since none had ever been,” Perez said. “Looking back on my first time at Disney, I remember what a fantastic experience it was, but it was also expensive.”

With this goal in mind, Perez worked tirelessly to put the pieces together to make this marvelous adventure happen within budget and without a hitch. The effort included reaching out to Disney for discounted tickets and to a local company for economical transportation.

“St. Leo Parish has always been there for our Positive Youth Development Program,” Perez said. “They help us with whatever comes up. Once the time came for us to meet about scholarships, they asked if we’re doing anything different this year, and I said ‘Yes!’ I explained what we were trying to accomplish making a lasting memory for the students, and they were on board. So, we came up with what we wanted to call the trip: ‘Making Dreams That Last Forever.’”

St. Leo the Great Parish covered the cost of nearly everything, including additional funding for t-shirts and money for souvenirs, Bellows noted. “’Making Dreams That Last Forever’ became a joyful reality made possible through the generosity of our parishioners.”

The parents were as excited as the kids were when they learned about the trip, Perez explained. One mother said: “Thank you for giving our children an opportunity we could never give them.”

Therefore, on the July 31, 2021, the group, including 40 youth, nine high school-aged volunteers, and Catholic Charities staff went on a trip of lifetime.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom, a girl named Arianna said to Perez: “Mr. Jose, look, it’s the Castle! It’s real!”

Camper Briana described her experience this way: “This was amazing. I had always dreamed of going to Disney. I am so glad I was able to come to summer camp. Thank you!”

Other campers had similar reactions: “It was such a magical feeling when we entered the park.” “This is so cool!” “Thank you for making my dream come true!”  “This was the most fun I have ever had!”

Perez said the trip was “beyond what I thought possible, the kids had a fantastic time. Getting to see their faces as we entered the park as they were greeted with the sight and sounds was priceless.”

To learn more about the Catholic Charities Positive Youth Development Program please contact Lose Perez at 239-390-2928 ext. 2302 or email To support the Program, visit

To learn about St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, please visit or call 239-992-0901.

Cursillo lay movement celebrates 25 years

For the past 25 years the Spanish Cursillos lay movement has been encouraging individuals and families to make a deeper commitment as living witnesses to the Lord by how they live their lives.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass on Aug. 7, 2021, at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, to mark the anniversary and thanked the participants for bringing the faithful closer to the Lord by being that example for others to follow.

“Take this anniversary as a time to celebrate what you have accomplished and know the seeds of faith are planted for the future,” Bishop Dewane said. “I stand before you humbled, as you are part of something symbolic and concretely spiritual.”

The keynote speakers were Jose Sanchez, Cursillos Region Vll Coordinator, and Ángel Delgado, who started Cursillos in the Diocese of Venice in 1986 at St. James Parish in Lake Placid. Both were pleased to witness such a strong lay movement with the Diocese. They also offered encouragement to the members to not rest on their laurels and to continue their effort to spread it and to bring others to the movement in the future. The day-long celebration also included prayer and music.

Cursillos is a lay movement which attempts, from within the Church, to give life to the essential Christian truths in the singularity, originality and creativity of the person. The goal of Cursillo is the same as the goal of the Church: to bring all to Christ. This is done when informed, trained leaders set out with the support of others having a similar commitment.

Cursillo (pronounced ” kur – see – yoh”) or Cursillo de Christiandad is a Spanish term which means “short course in Christianity.” Cursillo begins with a three-day experience, which takes a New Testament look at Christianity as a lifestyle. It is a highly structured weekend designed to strengthen and renew the faith of Christian people and through them their families, Parishes and the world in which they live.

Prayer, formation, fun at summer program

“Great!” “Amazing!” “Awesome!” “Fun!” “Fantastic!”

These were just a few of the descriptions from the young boys and girls who took part in the annual St. Michael Parish Summer Fun Day Camp held in Wauchula during the first two weeks of July 2021.

The summer programs were for children from kindergarten through fifth grade and had more than 100 children taking part in a variety of activities, all grounded in helping the boys and girls grow closer to the Lord.

The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará (SSVM), women religious who serve at the Parish, were helped by a number of other women from their order as well as teen and adult volunteers as they kept the children engaged.

The schedule was simple: an 8 a.m. sign in and then a talk about the Holy Mass with a presentation covering different aspects of full, active and conscious participation in the Mass. They also reviewed the prayers and music. This was followed by going to and actively participating in the daily Mass. At the conclusion of Mass there were additional prayers lead by either a religious sister or teen volunteer.

Following a hearty breakfast, they broke into smaller teams to participate in outdoor activities and games with friendly competitions that helped build teamwork, kindness, compassion and respect for others. A special treat was the inflatable water slide.

In the afternoons, different activities included learning about the life of different saints, presentations on the stage in the Parish Hall including singalongs, and more indoor games followed. Other activities involved some art and crafts that included making a personal rosary and drawing.

Each day concluded with snack time, singing and then a recitation of the Holy Rosary.

In the middle of the week, the eligible children and teenagers (helpers included) had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There was even a half-day field trip to an indoor gaming center.

Sister Maria Gema de Jesus Ruiz, SSVM, Director of Religious Education at St. Michael Parish, helped organize the camp. She noted how the success of the annual camp is thanks to the collaboration of hard work by the entire Parish community, including the parents and volunteers, as well as help from other Parishes. Those who could not volunteer donated essential items used throughout the week.

One young lady, Angelica, summed up the camp by saying: “This is the best. I love being here with everyone, and I love the (religious) Sisters who are so much fun!”

If you would like to support the children and youth programs led by the religious woman at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, please send donations to: St. Michael Church, Attn: Sisters Program, 409 Alice St., Wauchula, FL 33873.

Faith Formation in Spanish completes latest cycle

For the past four years the Hispanic Ministries outreach of the Diocese of Venice has strived to meet the needs of those desiring to be better formed in their Faith.

The Spanish-language Faith Formation Program recently distributed certificates of completion to 219 students, bringing the four-year total to more than 1,500.

Father Claudio Stewart, Diocese Hispanic Ministries Director, explained that the latest program “The Seven Sacraments” was a natural follow-up to the original Faith Formation offerings. That initial three-year program (2018-2020) included a series on the “Magisterium,” with a thorough explanation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; “Revelation and Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures;” and the “History and Tradition of the Church.”

Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions were developed immediately following the local consultation process of the V Encuentro in 2016 and 2017 with the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

The V Encuentro was a multi-year outreach initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with a goal of discerning ways for the Church in the U.S. to better respond to the needs of the ever-growing Hispanic presence. The process involved consultations at the Parish, Diocesan, regional and national levels. A final report was submitted to the Vatican in September 2019 with recommendations for inclusive action at all levels of the Church in the U.S. and are in the process of being implemented.

The idea behind the initial three-step Spanish Faith Formation Program within the Diocese was to quickly help bridge the gap in formation for Hispanics in the Diocese for whom English is not their first language. This gap had created isolation among some, and the program became empowering to Hispanic Catholics who often felt they were outsiders in the Catholic Church within the U.S., primarily due to the language difference.

The results were overwhelmingly positive as the program has shown there is a real desire for Hispanic Catholics to be formed in their Faith, Father Stewart explained. This is why the latest class was offered on the Sacraments and he was pleased that even during the Pandemic the interest to participate remains high with more than 350 taking part in at least one of the classes.

The benefit of having the formation program in Spanish was to allow the students the opportunity to better absorb the complexities of the Faith without the extra work of translating the information. This also helped streamline the instruction and allowed for a more open discussion. At the conclusion of each program year, those who earned the certificates were encouraged to use their new-found knowledge to evangelize in their Parish community.

The Faith Formation classes were divided into five geographic regions of the Diocese to allow easier access to the courses. Each region is under the guidance of a secretary, Azecena Calzada of Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton; Luz Janeth García of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs; Fatima Salto of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston; Maria G. Muñoz of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; and Deacon Roberto Landrón of St. Agnes Parish in Naples. Father Stewart said these key people deserve credit for their continuous work and dedication to the Formation Program.

Students could participate in-person or online, with videos produced with the assistance of Victor E. Michel and Sacred Heart Parish Youth Group in Bradenton. Instructors included nine priests and two women religious. Each level became increasingly sophisticated, challenging the participants to take a fresh look at the Catholic Church.

Father Stewart has reaffirmed there is more in the planning process for expanding Hispanic Faith Formation within the Diocese. However, the ongoing Pandemic caused delays in implementing some of those plans.

Other actions taken since the local V Encuentro sessions have encouraged a broader outreach and inclusion in existing Parish and Diocesan events. This means having sessions in Spanish at conferences, bilingual programs, and other steps that will help unify the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice. As this is the focus of Dioceses across the country, the goal is to create a stronger Catholic Church in the U.S.

“There is not supposed to be a separate Faith for English speakers versus Spanish speakers,’ Father Stewart explained. “We are all part of the same Universal Church – founded by Jesus Christ.”

To learn more about other Diocese of Venice initiative through the Hispanic Ministries Office, please email, or visit

Reading program prevents summer slide

Summer is a time when young children take time to play games outside, go swimming, and generally do everything fun they feel they missed while in school.

This break from school can cause serious problems for younger elementary-aged children, as they can quickly lose reading and language skills gained during the previous year in what is known as the “summer slide.”

Following an academic year when many students spent time remotely learning due to the global Pandemic, the risk of losing any skills is viewed as greater than ever.

To help prevent the “summer slide,” Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. has partnered with the Patterson Foundation to participate in the “2021 Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge – The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.”

The Reading Challenge is a community-wide effort in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties to help children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school and in life by ensuring they read at grade level by the end of third grade.

This is taking place at the Catholic Charities Casa San Juan Bosco Farmworker Housing community in Acadia where nearly 30 children are participating in a half-day summer camp focused on reading.

Clara Alvarez, who directs the Casa San Juan Bosco Educational Programs, said the partnership with the Patterson Foundation has helped bring in resources (books, teaching and learning guides) which allow the camp to succeed.

Teen volunteers help their young charges in all aspects of reading, including definitions, pronunciation and word usage in a way that is both supportive and fun.

“For the younger children just having someone read to them is a big help,” Alvarez explained. “For the older children it is about encouraging them to read aloud and without support.”

Many of the students are from bilingual families where English is not always the primary language spoken in the household, therefore the Catholic Charities camp serves as an important opportunity to develop their English skills which are needed to succeed in school.

All books are age-appropriate with the younger children using pop-up books while the older children have books with lots of pictures. As the students advance to the next level they read books with more developed themes and far fewer pictures. For the oldest children, shared reading or solo reading is more common.

For example, a group of four-year-old children sat in spellbound attention as they learned about a train as a teen volunteer read a pop-up book to them. Nearby another teen told a silly story based upon a group of words chosen at random as this effort drew uproarious laughter.

Meanwhile, in the next room, a group of older children read “Make Way for Ducklings,” a children’s picture book by Robert McCloskey while an older group read and alternately discussed “Flora and Ulysses,” an illustrated children’s novel by Kate DiCamillo with 231 pages.

After each book, the children discuss what they learned, sometimes drawing an image from the book or writing a synopsis into a reading journal they each keep which logs all of the books they read but provides room to share what they learned. The younger children receive repeated lessons on vocabulary.

As could be observed with some of the children at Casa San Juan Bosco, the summer camp is helping to develop avid readers with some children filling their logs with dozens of books read during the camp and at home.

One young girl was eager to fill out her log, 20 books by the end of the second week, and asked to take two more books home. “I can’t wait to read what’s next,” she exclaimed.

A nearby boy, a burgeoning artist, created an elaborate illustration that rivaled the book he just completed. With a big smile, he shared his colorful rending with the whole group.

All of this helps to develop multiple skills beyond reading, including understanding complex stories or themes, improving comprehension, and bolstering confidence in written, verbal and artistic abilities.

“It is great to see how excited they get when they get into a new book and start a new adventure,” Alvarez said.

To learn more about the summer camp and all of the programs of Catholic Charities offered within the Diocese of Venice please visit

Catholic Charities Summer Appeal – Leave your ‘footprint’ by helping neighbors

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. serves the most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need.

Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, even during the COVID-19 Pandemic, of the plans of the human heart and that the Lord directs those steps. Now is the time you can leave your footprint by helping your neighbors through giving to the annual “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” Appeal.

Catholic Charities offers the people of Southwest Florida the means to move beyond poverty and strive to achieve self-sufficiency. The appeal is critical for the continuing operations of the three dozen different programs available in locations throughout the 10-county Diocese of Venice. These programs remained functioning during the Pandemic while the demand for fundamental help skyrocketed. Between the end of March 2020 and the end of May 2021 Catholic Charities has assisted some 300,000 individuals or more than 100,000 households with items such as food, tele-mental health, financial assistance and more recently assistance in accessing vaccines.

Throughout the year, the programs help support a child’s success by helping them grow into strong leaders and the community’s most vulnerable youth thrive. This is done through providing essential school supplies, bedding for a child, or supplies for new mother.

A main focus in all of the work of Catholic Charities is striving to help give peace of mind to those who seek help by creating a better tomorrow where children and adults can experience hope, recovery, and wellness. Mental health counseling offers the tools necessary to overcome challenges. This includes life skills classes for mothers, as well as mental health counseling for children and survivors of human trafficking.

At the forefront of the homeless issue, an extremely complex matter that impacts the entire community, programs are operated to provide stable, permanent housing which is the first step in helping individuals and families achieve better lives. To accomplish this, there are programs which focuses on providing transitional housing for homeless families and human trafficking survivors as well as a program that prevents moms with babies from becoming homeless.

Of course, a key component of the work of Catholic Charities is helping to combat hunger. In Florida, 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger. Together, we can fight food insecurity by providing food to children, families and seniors to end hunger in the community. This is accomplished by providing hot meals through a soup kitchen, bags of food for a family to get through a crisis (both short-term and long-term like the Pandemic), and weekend food for children when school meals are not available.

Philomena Pereira, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities, says all donations – great or small – will enable Catholic Charities to continue to help those most vulnerable in the Diocese.

“The annual ‘Summertime and the Giving is Easy’ appeal reminds us all that many people in our communities of Southwest Florida do not have the essentials,” Pereira said. “Please consider a donation. You can make a real difference!”

How to Help

To donate to the “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” appeal, please visit or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. You can make your contribution in honor or memory of a loved one.

$10,000 helps maintain 5 transitional houses for homeless individuals and families.

$6,500 provides a notebook computer for 20 children.

$6,400 provides life-skills classes for 22 moms for 1 year.

$5,000 provides over 2,000 hot meals at our soup kitchen for one month.

$3,900 will house a disadvantaged mom and her baby for 2 months.

$2,800 allows a child mental health counseling for an entire school year.

$1,700 provides a homeless mom with 12 sessions of counseling.

$1,600 purchases a pallet of black beans feeding 500 families.

$1,250 houses a human trafficking survivor and family for 1 month.

$1,000 gives a backpack full of school supplies for 10 children.

$750 provides 150 children weekend meals when school meals are not available.

$600 helps a survivor of human trafficking with 2 months of mental health counseling.

$500 provides a new twin mattress, frame, and bedding for a child.

$250 supplies diapers, wipes, and hygiene supplies for a mother and child for 1 month.

$100 feeds a family of 4 for 2 weeks from a food pantry.

$75 provides a laundry basket filled with cleaning and household products to a family transitioning to a new home.

Service Locations

Arcadia, Boca Grande, Bonita Springs, Bradenton, Clewiston, Fort Myers, Immokalee, Naples, North Port, Palmetto, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Venice, Wauchula

Programs & Services

Adult Education, Affordable Housing, After-School Programs, Anti-Human Trafficking Assistance & Housing, Case Management Services, Clothing Distribution, Counseling Services, Disaster Response & Recovery, Early Learning Centers, Career Development & Empowerment, English Classes, Farm Worker Housing, Financial Assistance, Food Assistance and Pantry, Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP), HIV/AIDS Housing, HIV/AIDS Support Services, Home Buyer Education Class, Homeless Prevention, Housing Counseling & Foreclosure Prevention, Housing for Homeless Families, Immigration Services, Infant/Toddler Supplies, Rapid- Rehousing, Residential Program for Mothers & Children, Refugee Resettlement Services, Senior Housing, Senior Services, Soup Kitchen, Summer Youth Program, Transitional Housing, Youth Mentoring Program

Camps teach lessons in Faith

Two groups of youth from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula participated in separate camping trips to the mountains of north Georgia in a journey designed to develop self-confidence while at the same time helping to build a stronger relationship with the Lord.

Twenty-two young men travelled from June 7 to 15, 2021 to Vogel State Park in Blairsville, while the 25 young ladies were there from June 17 to June 25.

While based at the state park, the groups began each day with morning prayers, then travelled throughout the region and made certain to attend daily Mass at one of the local Catholic Churches. The evening routine included 30 minutes of talks and small group discussion, 30 minutes of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by dinner and light recreation such as board games and ping pong.

Days were filled with a variety of activities, including daily hiking, rafting, swimming, as well as visits to water parks and more casual walks through mountain towns. Two destinations included Brasstown Bald, the tallest peak in Georgia at 4,784 feet, and whitewater rafting on the Middle Ocoee River near Ducktown, Tennessee. The one difference between the two youth trips was the men opted to take part in a paintball course, while the ladies chose horseback riding,

One young man described his camp experience saying, “This year’s boys summer camp was above my expectations. This would have to be the best one I have been to. It had an equal amount of fun and spiritual learning. The highlights would have to be paintball and whitewater rafting. I also looked forward to the talks we would have in the evening. Overall, I enjoyed it. I will definitely go for years to come.”

One of the young ladies described here experience saying, “This year’s girls summer camp was everything that I hoped for. I was glad that COVID-19 didn’t stop us from going to Georgia as it did last year… The hikes were challenging, but they taught me not to give up even when things are hard to do. In the end, I was able to reap the reward of the beautiful scenery at the mountain tops. We went tubing, horseback riding and ate ice cream. We began each day with morning prayers and finished the day with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We were always well fed. My favorite activity was white water rafting. I have been going to this camp since 2017 and by far this was my favorite year.”

Another young lady described the trip as the one of the best decisions she has ever made, explaining how she grew in her Faith. This occurred not only through the participation in Mass, prayers and Adoration, but through being in the forest amongst nature, reaching magnificent vistas and seeing waterfalls, all part of the glory of God’s creation. While she said there were challenges, she returned home with new and amazing friends and memories to last a lifetime.

The groups were led by religious women from the Parish, the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, and they were assisted by a number of adult chaperones. Father Juan Lorenzo, St. Michael Parochial Vicar, was able to participate in the first five days of the boy’s camp.

Sister Maria Gema de Jesus Ruiz, SSVM, Director of Religious Education at St. Michael, who organized the trips, said that they “enabled everyone to overcome unexpected obstacles placed before them and to grow stronger in their Faith at the same time by putting their life and experience into the Hands of God.”

Sister Gema said the trip was made possible thanks to a number of benefactors and with the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane. “It has been an incredible experience for them, and we pray to our good Lord they will always remember the good things they learned.”

The religious sisters have a short time to rest as they will be hosting a two-week day camp at the Parish for elementary-aged children from July 5 to July 16.

If you would like to support the children and youth programs led by the religious woman at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, please send donations to: St. Michael Church, Attn: Sisters Program, 409 Alice St., Wauchula, FL 33873.

News Briefs for the Week of July 2, 2021

Mooney grad named Miss Florida

Congratulations to Leah Roddenberry, a graduate of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, for being crowned Miss Florida, June 26, 2021 at the RP Funding Center Youkey Theatre in Lakeland. She will go on to represent the state in the 100th Miss America Competition in December. Contestants are now judged on their poise, intelligence, talent, and how they are trying to make the world a better place. Roddenberry is originally from Bradenton and the 22-year-old is formerly Miss Tampa 2020, is an author of a children’s book and founder of “Be a LeadHER: Igniting the Spark Within” as a result of her own struggle with self-confidence during her youth. She graduated from Cardinal Mooney in 2017 and previously attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. She is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences and is a member of the Florida Blue Key, the oldest and most prestigious leadership honorary society in the state of Florida.


Ordination to the Priesthood July 31

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful of the Diocese to the Ordination of Transitional Deacons Mark Harris and Alexander Pince to the Priesthood. This is to take place at 11 a.m., July 31, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacons Harris and Pince, as well as the history of Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

OLPH Retreat Center Fall Schedule published

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Retreat and Spirituality Center in Venice has published their Fall 2021 Group Retreat Schedule. The schedule includes a Men’s Retreat in October, Ignatian Preached Retreat in November, and Advent Retreat in December. In addition, the schedule for the Monthly Day of Prayer, held on the second Sunday and Wednesday of each month starting in September, has also been published. Please see the Schedule of Events page on our website for more information and to register at If you have any questions, please call 941-486-0233.

Proyecto Raquel Retiro de Sanación Después del Aborto

¿Está usted sufriendo después de un aborto? Hay esperanza y sanación esperándola, no importa hace cuanto tiempo haya sucedido. Usted nunca es demasiado mayor para regalarse a si misma el Retiro de Sanación del Projecto Raquel. El próximo retiro en Español está programado para el sábado 14 de agosto. Para información confidencial, contacte a Sylvia al número 941-412-5860 o

Project Rachel Healing Retreat After Abortion

Are you suffering after an abortion? There is hope and healing waiting for you, no matter how long ago it happened. You are never too old to give yourself the Healing Retreat from Project Rachel. The next retreat in Spanish is scheduled for Saturday, August 14. For confidential information, contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or

World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly

Pope Francis instituted the Church-wide celebration of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Beginning this year, this special day will be held on the fourth Sunday of July (July 25), close to the liturgical Memorial of Ss. Joachim and Anne, the Grandparents of Jesus. The theme chosen by the Holy Father for this World Day is “I am with you always” (cf. Mt 28:20) which is a way of expressing the closeness of the Lord and the Church to every older person. “I am with you always” is also a promise of closeness and hope that young and old can mutually share. Not only are grandchildren and young people called upon to be present in the lives of older people, but older people and grandparents also have the mission of evangelization, proclamation and prayer, and of encouraging young people in their Faith. To learn more, please visit

2021 Marriage Preparation Retreats

The Diocesan Office of Family Life is offering “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the following Saturdays: July 10, Aug. 7, and Nov. 13. Please visit to register for the English retreats. Retreats in Spanish take place: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Aug. 7 and October 30 at St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th Street, Sarasota, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Aug. 14 and Dec. 4, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 355 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle. To register for a St. Jude retreat date please contact the parish at 941-955-3934. Please visit to register for a retreat at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, For further information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

Online St. Joseph course now available

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation invites you to celebrate the Year of St. Joseph with a self-paced online course “Encountering St. Joseph with St. John Paul II and Pope Francis.” The class covers John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Person and Mission of St Joseph (Redemptoris Custos) and Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on St Joseph (Patris Corde). This course can be taken individually or in a group. Start the course anytime and proceed at your own pace as it includes short, pre-recorded videos, questions for personal reflection or group discussion, recommended resources and more. Course fee: $35. For information and registration visit the Institute web or call 941-766-7334.

St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry open

The St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City, is open and distributing food from 9:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m., on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. For more information contact Megan at 941-697-4899, or by email at